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Fallout from Blizzard Hong Kong Incident (vice.com)
605 points by rahuldottech 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 382 comments

What is really interesting about this is how completely and utterly horrible a job Blizzard did in anticipating and preparing this very obvious possibility, and thus is so poorly handling every single aspect of this.This so obviously was likely to happen that it easily could have been anticipated and planned for to be dealt with in a much, much more professional way, and yet clearly they didn't, and it's beyond inexcusable for any major company to drop the ball like this. And they just continue to prove their incompetence in how they're (not) responding now -- they should be in crisis PR mode, yet they're just sitting there, paralyzed.

How they've (mis)handled this will be studied by business and PR students for years to come.

They could have gotten away with it had they not been so severe. They: Banned the player, fired the casters, and took back the player's winnings. They should have just banned the player for a year and left it at that.

(not agreeing with anything that they did, just looking at it from a PR perspective)

I think the details that you mention wouldn't be so important in the media narrative (although maybe they would in the gamers' perception). The ban alone probably speaks to the imagination the most.

I am, for one, moderately optimistic looking at the Western counter-outrage and people ditching Blizzard. We need strong and widely held convictions to defend our basic liberty. Coming from the former Eastern Block, I can easily imagine what is it like to have an unfree government convincing the world that we want to live under its "protection", applying material pressures and pseudo-patriotic propaganda to make it appear so etc. If clumsy Chinese silencing play will trigger more popular defensive reactions, it's good. And in economy, historically totalitarian regimes can be extremely good in catching up (see Stalin's industrialization), not so good in outrunning.

As a single data point, I've uninstalled all my (2) blizzard games and tried to purge what data I could from my account. I submitted a ticket to delete all my data, but they requested a government photo id... and given that I don't trust Blizzard with my game data, I definitely don't trust them with that.

Well, given their record, they might just sell your ID photo to the Chinese.

Which is something I try my best to avoid, yes.

Agreed, they went nuclear without anticipating the world to fire back.

they went nuclear not caring about anything but keeping china's totalitarian government happy.

I hope this really hurts blizzard. To many people value playing the game than protecting rights, let alone rights of other people.

We should all completely boycott Blizzard and never purchase games from it again. Same thing with the NBA. In the long run, we need to fight back in China itself against the dictatorship.

Blizzard has been on a downward spiral for years. They still have awesome teams releasing and maintaining awesome games, (thank you for custom colors in SC Remastered!), but by and large their direction has been towards EA and away from their true fans.

This is because their name is not Blizzard. Their legacy is Blizzard. Their name is Activision Blizzard. They are actively opposed to players' interests in many ways, like lootboxes which many countries seek to outlaw for teaching children to gamble, always-online DRM etc.

Metzen is out, Morhaime is out. Really the soul of the company has departed already. They still have some of the best talent in the industry but the products are not going to be what we used to love anymore. Makes me sad as I've supported them from Warcraft I and Diablo I until about last year (when they killed the competitive scene for HOTS with very little warning).

I can't understand why anyone even expects better PR management from Blizzard after that "you all have mobile phones, right?" fiasco

It's no longer Blizzard, it's Activision-Blizzard, which explains the clusterfuck that the company has become.

If anything their perspective seems to be that their "true fans" are mainly Chinese and are playing cheap knock of mobile games.

That does seem to be the case. The "big" announcement at last year's Blizzcon was a Chinese free to play mobile game with a Diablo skin.

It helps if you consider China has millions of little baby whales who will grow up to spend tens of billions of dollars in Activision Blizzard titles that leverage dark patterns that western countries are starting to outlaw.

Lack of big news doesn't mean anything. We know they had teams working on Diablo 4, Overwatch 2, and the next World of Warcraft expansion. But Blizzard has historically preferred to have extended internal development periods and not announce anything until they're close to release.

Heck, Titan was under development for years before getting cancelled without any sort of big announcement.

Their revenue was growing pretty steadily for years until this past year. What makes you think they were on a downward spiral this whole time?

The "downward spiral" premise I believe refers more to "alienating the players who made the company successful in the first place" and is not at all related to revenue or profit.

I could be wrong -- it's just that this always seems to have been the sentiment on the forums I frequented.

> How they've (mis)handled this will be studied by business and PR students for years to come.

I doubt it. The internet has a very short attention span and online activism is pretty much useless.

That was my thought yesterday when I saw one post on Reddit. But I think things are different this time. Every post to every Blizzard-related subreddit is related to this event. One of the top posts on /r/all is about using an Overwatch character to represent the Hong Kong protests, and it's gaining traction. The NYT and WSJ have articles about the situation. Congresspeople are making statements about it. Streamers that normally play Blizzard games aren't. Designers of Blizzard games are deleting their accounts. Brian Kibler quit his job as a Grandmasters caster.

This has exploded from "a random employee in our China office posted to our blog and social media and the die-hards are mildly upset" to an existential threat. It's a disaster. (Oh what I would give to see those meetings and emails.)

Remember that only 12% of Activision Blizzard's revenue comes from Asia/Pacific, with South Korea a notable member of that group of countries. China isn't actually a big deal for them right now. Although there is huge growth potential there; 1.4 billion potential Blizzard gamers... now might be the best time to walk back, see what happens, and capture that market later. They can afford to.

Were you around for Occupy Wall Street? I am for the cause in general. But activists need to figure out a proper strategy.

Long story short: you need to demand congressional action, and lead an actual political change. That includes a plan to vote come next year (who to vote for, who to support, etc. etc.). Anything less will be largely ignored, just like Occupy Wall Street.

I disagree that Occupy Wall Street was a complete failure; it brought "1%" into the popular lingo and with that shaped countless people's ideas on society and class.

There's a political game at play here. I'm trying to point it out, so that future protests can be more fruitful. In the great scheme of things, a bunch of people sat in a park for 3+ months, and then politics moved against them for the next 5+ years.

> and with that shaped countless people's ideas on society and class.

And it doesn't matter unless those people vote in greater numbers than their opposition. Society is moving against the Occupy Wall Street principles that were laid out almost a decade ago.

All of this is still just an online echo chamber doing its thing.

Really? “Online activism” is how Trump got elected. It also raised millions for ALS many years ago despite all the naysayers claiming it’ll do nothing.

This kind of online backlash activism is useless.

Trump got elected because his opponent was as weak and unpopular as he was, but unlike her he had the benefit of constant TV news coverage for a year and a half leading up to the election.

And she was going to start a war with Russia. Admittedly, it'd be nice to have a president that tows the line more in the middle of the two, but another war is not what we need.

I wish more voters cared about that sort of thing. Both 3rd-party candidates were anti-war, and they got 3.25% and 1%.

Anyway, it's curious how much this "online chicanery is what got Trump elected" meme appears, despite its obvious falsehood. I wonder whose interests are served by that?

Wait, you think Clinton was going to start a war with Russia?

Did you miss how she sold American uranium interests to Russia?

Did you miss how Russia worked with her campaign to prepare the Steele dossier, i.e. how Russia worked with the Clinton campaign to prevent Trump from being elected?

Did you miss how the Obama administration (in which she was Secretary of State) worked with Russia, how Obama was caught on-mic telling Medvedev to tell Putin that Obama would have more flexibility after Obama was reelected?

These are all widely reported facts.

It's bizarre how people still think Russia wanted Trump to win the election.

> What is really interesting about this is how completely and utterly poorly Blizzard anticipated this very obvious possibility and thus is so poorly handling every single aspect of this.

I kind of doubt that. With potential billions on the line, losing a few protesting players and face isn't anything to worry about. They have plenty of people hooked playing their games so they don't have much face to lose.

I'm curious what the reaction to these events has been in South Korea, where Blizzard derives a significant amount of their worth from. I would think South Korea would be particularly incensed, given that they are also a small country near China and are familiar with tyrannical rule. But I've not read up enough to know if these events are making waves there.

If they are, that's a far bigger issue for Blizzard than a handful of angry American players.

> South Korea, where Blizzard derives a significant amount of their worth from

> that's a far bigger issue for Blizzard than a handful of angry American players

In fact Activision Blizzard only has 12% of revenue from Asia-Pacific [0][1]. The vast majority is from the Americas and EMEA [2]. The west should have a bigger say on Activision Blizzard's business, not China or South Korea.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/df2ke8/the_asi...

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/Blizzard/comments/df8tmr/the_entire...

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/dfezlv/activis...

Additional info: For those wondering why Activision Blizzard kowtows to China while having a small revenue base there, tweets by Mark Kern (team lead of World of Warcraft and former Blizzard employee) may offer an answer.


The whole thread is a gem. Boils down to bribes and subsidies. He's taking a huge risk by making it public.

Only time will tell? Blizzard has not been a hip indie game studio for many years now, and people have incredibly short memories. Will you still be talking about this 3 months from now? Their chinese investors, partners, etc. may have a much longer memory than a bunch of Americans getting outraged at the latest injustice to be outraged about.

I think we'll get a pretty good indication of whether this will blow over in 3 weeks at Blizzcon. I fully expect at least some attendees will bring signs/symbols to troll China - we'll see how Blizzard handles it.

I agree with you 100%. I would bet that Blizzard's radio silence had been planned from the start. People will forget but the more they apologize the more they dig themselves into a hole that's tough to get out of. Personally, I hope that I can withstand the desire to re-subscribe in two weeks.

French people are outraged too.

What do you mean? Lots of social media activity?

(I’m French)

Yes, people have incredibly short memories, they will forget all about Blizzard and never return.

I think it is called the benefit of hindsight. Everyone is smart after it happens but in reality, nobody anticipated that.

some things are knowable beforehand.

China's using economic leverage to bully companies into toeing their propaganda line -- particularly in light of the nba incident -- should have every public companies entangled in China figuring out their strategy for when someone speaks this way.

What we need is an economic partnership that can stand up to China, like a union of companies that can actually deter China from throwing its weight around. This partnership should be more than just the United States too. It should span across the entire Pacific region, including Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and others. Maybe we could call it a "Cross-Pacific-Partnership". This is a totally new idea that I'm having in response to recent events and nobody could have foreseen the need for this.

Can you prove that you knew it beforehand?

The NBA literally just went through this 3 days prior. South Park literally released an episode satirizing this exact scenario 2 days prior.

It's definitely prior knowledge. They either didn't care or are grossly incompetent.

What I think is interesting is that none of this happened during US business hours. Someone in their China office or whatever made the decision, and when everyone in LA woke up, they found a shitstorm.

The trouble that Blizzard has is walking back this decision could put their employees in China in danger.

Good point :)

> How they've (mis)handled this will be studied by business and PR students for years to come.

It really depends on their goal. Reading the Chinese gaming forums, everyone is praising Blizzard for their “fair” stance and saying they will spend more on them.

So if this actually helps their bottom line, Blizzard’s actions could be studied as a master stoke on how to deal with geopolitical PR.

These kind of decisions are made by a 5th level middle manager, not by the CEO or the PR department.

Just like when the Delta flight crew forcefully removed that doctor from the airplane. Or a Starbucks employee calling the police on black people waiting there.

By the time PR get's involved, it's too late.

This is one crucial vulnerability of many companies in today's world, any low level employee can generate a huge PR disaster by just not being smart enough to see the bigger picture.

So basically today you need every employee to be trained like a world class PR agent.

Ha - one bit of irony here is that it was actually United, not Delta, that removed the doctor from the plane. That's another angle in these situations. People remember the outcry, but not all of the details.

> any low level employee can generate a huge PR disaster by just not being smart enough to see the bigger picture

The military of many countries recognise this, recognising the concept of the 'strategic corporals' [0] [1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Block_War

[1] https://thediplomat.com/2012/03/the-strategic-corporals-evil...

Great Streisand moves by China though, previously gamers or basketball fans might not really care about what's happening in Hong Kong/China in general, but within 2 days they (China) have raised awareness of what a shitty overlord they are.

Ditto South Park. By telling people they cannot watch South Park, they have guaranteed everyone will want to watch that episode.

That's the lesson Dolores Umbridge inadvertently taught us in Harry Potter # 5.

Yup we watched the episode last night. I hadn't watched South Park since college. It was a great episode.

It's free to watch here: https://southpark.cc.com/full-episodes/s23e02-band-in-china

I feel like an idiot. It only just occurred to me that the episode's name is "ban(ne)d in China".

I honestly thought the entire Metal Band B-Plot was just to get that pun into the name.

South Park Studios and Comedy Central are having a great week.

I'd be surprised if it wasn't one of the biggest episodes in South Park history. And certainly the most viewed episode in China, haha.

Why do you believe people in China are watching this? Does south park usually have a lot of chinese viewers?

South Park was HUGE in China in 2000s, counterfeit plushies and merchandise everywhere.

There was recently a brouhaha over a cosplayer being accused of blackface for cosplaying a league of legends character named Pyke.

This cosplayer was a finalist and the competition in question removed her over it.

When I first encountered it this morning my thought was that she ultimately wins because she's getting exposure that she never would have gotten before, and most people aren't ridiculous.

That... doesn't really seem the same.

So what would be the PC way to cosplay a specific dark-skinned character when you are really light-skinned?

Black people seem to be able to dress up as white characters without using white face just fine.

Be a light-skinned Pyke. The costume IMO is the most important part. If you have the look, you don't need to put on black-face to have a killer cosplay.

that's not Pyke.

There is no PC way, that's the problem. People just need to get over themselves.

Streisand effect imo is overrated. We want it to be true that censorship / silencing information doesn't work but it's shown time and time again that it does work by and large and that information is silenced for the vast majority of the population.

You're painting with a broad brush. China has a great firewall, Streisand did not. China can block its own citizens from reading about this, but Blizzard and the NBA can not. So, I'd say the Streisand effect relies on certain internet freedoms that some countries may not provide. It's not overrated here but in China it definitely is.

China doesn’t really care what non Chinese citizens think. The government is more afraid of its own citizens starting an uprising.

The riots in Hong Kong saved the CPC. The people in Mainland China were already starting to get upset at the government because of how the trade war was affecting the economy. The implicit contract being the people won’t rebel if the economy is good.

Luckily for the CPC, the Hong Kong riots came along and now the government is able to use that as an excuse to bolster patriotism.

So naturally they need to be “tough” on the NBA, Blizzard and any other company so as to not lose the people’s support.

Time will tell whether they care or not, but I believe the CCP has moved past mere stability and support.

Well, China has done nothing here though. This is the NBA and Blizzard acting to prevent what I like to call the "Weibo Outrage Machine" from revving too high. (Not that it worked, because in the NBA's case, the machine was red lining. In Blizzard's case, there was nary a peep though, so that one is a bit puzzling?) For any who were unaware, the "Weibo Outrage Machine" is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, think Reddit, HN, or Twitter. Only in Mandarin, and with consensus opinions essentially 100% opposed to consensus opinions in the West on these issues.

I'm afraid we may have entered an era where outrage machines in China effectively dictate market access. Senators, Prime Ministers, Premier's, and Presidents will be powerless to stop it. (Well, short of shutting the outrage machines down.)

The NBA said "the person can say what he wants on Twitter, even if we don't like it". Blizzard banned the player for a year, took his earnings from the tournament, and fired the casters that were interviewing him.

Of course there's nary a peep about Blizzard.

However the case may be though, it's clear that the actors here are the "Weibo Outrage Machine", the NBA, and Blizzard. Which should be more concerning than Chinese government censorship. These outrage machines are are proving themselves at once more powerful than governments and less controllable.

I'm not sure I'd agree with your assumption that "outrage machines" are wholly unconnected/uncontrolled by governments. We know governments have used bots on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to stir controversy, why would Weibo be any different?

This is why outrage machines everywhere are supremely dangerous. I just want to throw out the possibility here that more entities than governments are using sock puppets to rev the world's outrage machines.

I'm about to do a thought experiment here. Only a thought, I'm not accusing anyone of anything. But just consider, what sort of messages would sock puppets controlled by, say, CBA teams be throwing into the Weibo Outrage Machine on the subject of the NBA? You say, "Well the NBA is likely doing the same", and I'd probably agree. Point is though that this is a new era really in public manipulation.

Think along those lines and you can kind of get an idea how these outrage machines around the world can be far more powerful tools than any government.

"consensus opinions" authorized by Chinese government - likes, "trending" and timelines are all artificially constructed to make you feel like it's the consensus of Chinese people.

How does this "outrage machine" affect the actions of the Chinese government? If people get outraged enough, will they vote against the communist party?

I am a Chinese American but my wife is Chinese. I have a large number of Chinese friends. You may be surprised to learn that vast majority of Chinese natives are very pro-China; and while they can be critical of the Chinese government at times, they tend to be united against any actions taken by foreign entities they consider anti-China or anti-Chinese government.

Talk to a few Chinese immigrants and you will know.

The younger Chinese generation grew up in an era of Chinese economic boom and are the benefactors of the efficiency in decision making that came with a more top-down (dictatorial if you will) government. The younger generation is much more focused on economic well-being and safety over liberty or freedom.

So as long as China can maintain the economic growth it's been having the past two decades, the Chinese public will by and large support the government.

> The younger generation is much more focused on economic well-being and safety over liberty or freedom

This is perfectly reasonable when you consider it a personal decision. Sure, trade away some of your freedom for better economic well-being.

But how do they justify this when their personal economic well-being requires trampling the freedom of other people?

By that logic, would pro-China people would support China going to war with and taking over other countries if it brought them "economic well-being"?

(edited to make the last statement more clearly a question since it's something I'm genuinely curious about.)

>But how do they justify this when their personal economic well-being requires trampling the freedom of other people?

There are 3 great evils in China: terrorism, separatism and extremism. HK/Tibet/XinJiang/Taiwan are not economic issues but security ones. People balance prosperity for security everywhere. The west sees HK as a large pro democracy movement, the Chinese see's this as fringe separatist violence by 0.001% of the population. They see HK as Chinese alt-right getting bold undermining domestic serenity: disenfranchised, social media savvy, economically anxious youth who see their culture being displaced and their privileged being eroded by mainland immigrants. They're acting accordingly.

In what way does pretending Taiwan does not exist improve China's security?

The physical island is a huge geopolitical asset or security risk. See island chain strategy. Also look up elevation map of Taiwan + Taiwan straight. Chinese coast is very shallow and hard to hide Chinese subs, whereas east Taiwan drops straight into deep water which enables China to hide subs which is important in controlling regional waters against US Navy. Regardless, the Chinese military planning certainly doesn't pretend the land isn't there. The government (from both sides) just doesn't recognize each others sovereignty.

How do Taiwanese companies do business in China?

"Hello, I am the CEO of a company located in a fully autonomous province that does not pay taxes to the PRC?"

China does not occupy Taiwan, so those points are moot.

What security interest is served by censoring discussion of the existence of Taiwan?

This is a political issue, not a security issue.

It's both. Politics is a huge part, reunification is #1 CPC policy consideration since founding and her entire legitimacy rests on it. Occupation goal is by 2050. No one is censoring discussion of Taiwan? If you're talking flag emoji that's equivalent to banning confederate flag in Chinese context. People talk about Taiwan in China all the time but under context of reunification. On refusing sovereignty claims. If Taiwan was sovereign they would be free to host US bases which challenges Chinese security, particularly shipping lanes where China imports oil. China is not energy secure. Taiwan has been a Chinese "redline" for many reasons.

> If Taiwan was sovereign they would be free to host US bases

Taiwan is clearly sovereign, anyone saying otherwise is ignoring reality or avoiding offending China.

The US had military bases in Taiwan for 20 years, the military bases were removed to assist with normalizing relations with China.

I can absolutely see why insisting that the US not place military bases on Taiwan is a security concern, but this has nothing to do with the sovereignty of Taiwan. (Similar to US concerns about Russian military installationa in Cuba which were unrelated to Cuba's sovereignty.)

The institutional double-speak around the sovereignty of Taiwan is purely political and has no impact on actual security issues.

I like to compare it with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Imagine having that Soviet (in this case US) power projection so close to home.

> But how do they justify this when their personal economic well-being requires trampling the freedom of other people?

The same way every one in every other country on earth deals with the awful things their country does I guess. By ignoring it.

> By that logic, would pro-China people would support China going to war with and taking over other countries if it brought them "economic well-being"?

Looking at world history probably?

The same thing happens with the US: despite the problems that (most of) the rest of the world has with its government, the US citizens are very much supportive of their government.

To paraphrase your last statement, as long as the US can manage to not destroy their economy completely, the US public will by and large support the government.

I would say that most Americans are actually very angry about the US government.

Not in my experience.

Most Americans are angry about the president or some senator. Medicare? FBI? The US Navy / Air Force / Army? The police? Most Americans love those. (When did you last see a group of people asking for the disbanding of the FBI? Heck, for the disbanding of the IRS even.)

No, because the government generally puts on a big show to satisfy the outrage machines if the machines red line on a given subject for too long. Nothing and no one is safe. The outrage machines demand blood, then just like in the US, those in power will give the outrage machines blood. They will jail, and have even been known to execute, any political or business leader if an "outrage machine" revs about the guy for too long.

In this case, the volume of messages I was reading made clear mainlander disdain for the NBA's perceived position on Hong Kong. (The great irony being that the NBA actually has no position on HK, but just like in the US, that fact does little to stop the outrage machines.) In cases like this, the government tends to sit back, do nothing, and let American entities be embarrassed.

It doesn't seem plausible that Xi is worried about the opinions of neckbeards. It may suit his purposes to pretend that to be the case, but they certainly have enough control over the infrastructure to silence any counterproductive "outrage". As in USA, TPTB like to pretend that there are ways for the hoi polloi to determine national priorities.

"They will jail, and have even been known to execute, any political or business leader if an "outrage machine" revs about the guy for too long."

Wait, when did the US kill a political or business leader because of social media pressure?

Another incident: A fan at a 76ers game was escorted out after shouting "free Hong Kong" before a game against a CBA team in Philadelphia yesterday.


It would be interesting what wpukd happen if people on NBA games started wearing FreeHK shirts. Would they be ejected during game? That would really mean that china effectively censors US citizens.

Also what would happen if crowd pulled HK support en masse, escort out everyone?

Were they escorted out because of what they were saying, or were they escorted out for being annoying and disrupting the game?

Have you been to a basketball game? It would be really difficult to "be annoying" or "disrupt" the din of noise that fills an arena.

Yes, and I've seen people (obnoxious drunks) get escorted out. This is also a pre-season game.

It is scary to see how much more China and the CCP can get away with, I'm looking forward to seeing where it will all end up. Probably not in a good place. Money talks, morals? Not so much.

Right now the leadership in China is terrified! They've been able to get away with a lot, basically using their economic power to get other countries to look the other way with regards to their behavior (suppressing their people, stealing IP, bullying smaller nations). but the moment they got called on it and people started moving their operations to other countries (previously considered "impossible"), they saw the economic impact. And they realized that they can't get away with what they're doing if they aren't providing their citizens with a constantly growing economy, their citizens are going to start getting angry again.

It's clear now much of the Chinese leadership were a paper tiger and now that the heat is on, they don't really have a strategy. They just never expect enough people to call them out publicly and embarass them. Maybe they'll keep hold of their own country by suppressing information flow, countrywide surveillance, but whatever power they had over the global economy: severely diminished.

Their economy is also massively indebted, they got hooked on debt to a degree many here would consider reckless. They've wasted a tremendous amount of money on useless construction, which may be one downfall of a planned economy.

I was intrigued by your comment, so I went looking around: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_external_...

It looks like their debt is only 15% of their GDP? I've heard the China <> Debt thing before and I don't understand it. Could you explain what you mean?

I'm by no means an expert, but my understanding is that China's debt problem is not external debt, but internal debt. To put what the more negative takes are saying in US-related terms it's as if the mortgage-lending practices of the mid-2000s were done on a much larger scale (involving not just housing loans but almost everything funded by borrowing, including industry, infrastructure, etc) and for a much longer time.

As a result, there are lots of loans on the books that will never be paid off as things stand, and unlike the US there is no mechanism in the financial system to acknowledge any of that on a gradual basis (loan writedowns, etc), so the loans keep being rolled over instead.

At some point, reality will need to be faced, at which point there will be either massive financial system issues, much worse than what the US had going on in 2008, or huge government bailouts. And in the latter case, that implies even more financial repression or taxation, or both, than is already going on, with resulting decreases in economic well-being for urban areas in China, which is the thing that _really_ worries the CCP.

If the economy grows faster than the "bad loan" burden, then this problem is basically temporary, and rolling the loans over until the economy has grown enough to just deal with the issue is the right strategy. It's hard to come by plausibly correct (or even unbiased) estimates of either economic growth or the size of the "bad loan" burden, but almost all the estimates I've seen seem to agree that for a long time the "bad loan" burden was growing faster than the economy. Whether that's still the case, I don't know.

Agreed. I had a bunch of friends who visited ~5 years ago and were claiming US was so far behind in building that China was going to take over the world. Several went back recently and said "so many ghost towns, what happened?"

Indeed. The "decoupling" phenomenon has their attention.

I'm interested in your opinion. Sources?

A collection of mainstream news sources, various government reports, and speculation.

Sorry, I mean, "I am interested in also reading your sources. Do you have any links that come to mind?"

Mostly Google News, NY Times, I never read Huffington (progressive propaganda) and I read Breitbart to see what the people voting for Trump are rambling about.

I think long-term it's maybe okay. All of this is a sign that the CCP is losing control of things. Of course their reaction is to tighten up and things are going to get worse before they get better.

Unfortunately I do think this means we're going to see some action in the South China Sea region. China has problems to deal with in Hong Kong, Taiwan, North Korea, Xinjiang, Tibet, etc. Eventually one of its neighbors is going to get aspirations and will poke the bear. Hopefully China is spread too-thin to deal with it, although that will mean conflict. Violence will be necessary here.

I don't suppose the lack of legitimacy of the CCP will make anyone more likely to recognize Taiwan? Anybody? Oh, well.

I feel for Taiwan.

Whatever hopes the borderline pro-China Taiwanese harbored must’ve been shattered by what is happening in Hong Kong this past year.

The true character of China has been revealed: The CCP is power-hungry and don’t feel constrained at all.

I would consider it a fight or die situation in slow motion from here on out.

I would bet their wish would be to have the power to sanction a country and then forbid any other country from doing business with them.

Even going as far as being able to arrest foreign executives that break those sanctions.


CCP == Chinese Communist Party in this context.


Side note: what's going on HN lately with all this pun/troll/meme nonsense? Please leave that stuff on reddit.

Counter-point: I haven't seen any uptick in such comments. (Also note that meta comments comparing HN to Reddit generally garner downvotes, for good reason, as they too don't contribute meaningfully to discussion)

Side note: what's going on with people believing reddit has some monopoly on puns/trolls/memes and that hacker-types (like the folks who presumably frequent Hacker News) would never find them amusing?

I visit HN because it provides more or less serious and intellectually-stimulating conversation with a diverse group of people that have diverse (and sometimes opposing) viewpoints. It's not that funny stuff isn't amusing, it's that it's counter to what HN might be trying to achieve.

> it's that it's counter to what HN might be trying to achieve.

If HN is trying to achieve a soulless takes-itself-way-too-seriously environment, then I'd agree with you. Hopefully that's not the case (but probably is, per the observations I've accumulated over the years of hanging around here).

> intellectually-stimulating conversation

Humor can be intellectually-stimulating, even in the form of clever puns. Whether or not the pun in question was clever (or at least sufficiently-clever to be amusing) is a different question.

> diverse group of people that have diverse (and sometimes opposing) viewpoints.

Humor happens to be an excellent way to both convey and consume those viewpoints, especially in a way that's actually conducive to all parties actually coming away with a better understanding of one another.

I'll bite the bullet and give my opinion without any hedging. If someone's comment consists of just a pun, or other low effort content that doesn't lead to meaningful dialogue, I'm downvoting them.

It's a housekeeping/ broken windows thing, puns and off topic one liners that exist to solicit some type of thoughtless reaction in the reader, are the first signs of a forum in decline.

A discussion of how this type of event could affect other large MMO developers, such as CCP, could be relevant. There's a large Chinese playerbase in EVE Online.

> It's not that funny stuff isn't amusing, it's that it's counter to what HN might be trying to achieve.

So, keep it serious. No Having fun. Gotchya.

You can have fun, but your joke has to be funny and original. Edit: Maybe just funny.

So, Twitter et al. have been training corporations to pay attention to various levels of public outrage, and the public outrage has been training corporations on how to mitigate that outrage without impacting the bottom line too dramatically, and now we're surprised these pliable flexible money gumbys' are bending to the whim of someone with (potentially) more money?

As a bonus, "we" (The West) have recently demonstrated hundreds upon hundreds of examples of free speech being relegated to a distant second to certain "special" feelings our society holds, and now "we" are trying to tell China that their certain special feelings aren't worthy of this level of protection?

If our values mean nothing to us, then there is no reason to be surprised that those values mean just as little to others.

Since Twitter is blocked in China, I bet it is corpotate regional managers who are flipping out about posts that reach maybe 1 percent of China's population

1% of 1'500'000'000 is 15 million people

True but nevertheless insignificant

I'm mixed on this. I'm 100% for Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai to express his support for Hong Kong. I'm not so sure it's okay for him to do it on Blizzard's show/event.

27 years ago Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live when it was broadcast live. She's was arguably right to critize the Pope but was she right to do it from Saturday Night Live's Live broadcast? IIRC because of that incident SNL added a 5 or 10 second delay so they'd have time to cut if something similar happened again.


Anyway, I'm support of the HK protestors and having written that in public now I wonder if I'm banned from China. I also believe I want US businesses to all stick up for freedom of expression and not sell out to China. I'm just saying in the context of using the Blizzard event I'm not so ready to condemn Blizzard's initial response. In the new context of what's happened since then though I hope they change their direction.

IIRC Sinead O'Connor was pretty much universally condemned even though if I understand correctly she was right.

I don’t know about SNL, but the thing that pisses me off about Blizzard is that they have been parading around as a company that supports human rights. They recently held a pro LGBT+ event, they’ve held numerous humanitarian aid campaigns and they even have a statue outside their headquarters that features one of their core values “Every voice matters”.

You simply can’t do all that, and then go against democracy and basic human rights like this, and then expect people to not call you out for your bullshit.

>They recently held a pro LGBT+ event...

That was mysteriously absent from their Chinese servers.

Activision/Blizzard being hypocrites about their stance on human rights has been around for a while - here's a _long_ forum thread from last year about "Blizzard selling out LGBTQ+ to Chinese money".


Not to denigrate supporting any kind of human rights, but promoting LGBT and humanitarian causes in almost any western country won't lose them a single customer. Today, that's the easy way out. 20-30 years ago it would be gutsy.

It can still cost them customers, e.g. hardcore Christians. Today, it is still brave, just less than 20-30 years ago.

Throughout the entire existence of WoW they've actively prohibited LGBT community to express themselves in WoW. While they did nothing about virtual RP sex on RP servers.

I agree that Blizzard is reasonable to want to limit political speech, including speech related to Hong Kong, on their event broadcast.

However I think the response was totally out of scale. They banned the player from competing for a year, rescinded winnings, deleted the VOD of the event, and fired both casters who were interviewing him. Would that have happened if a player on stream said something else political and inflammatory? No way.

Example: https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/20/16913072/overwatch-league-... $2000 fine and a 4 day ban

An $x000 fine and y game suspension is a punishment in line with this offense in literally every professional sports league.

Proof that “e-sports” is an amateur endeavor at best.

Maybe the management of it is amateur. The money and eyes on it are not.

>>>I'm not so sure it's okay for him to do it on Blizzard's show/event.

>>>...but was she right to do it from Saturday Night Live's Live broadcast?

If SNL wants to not invite O'Connor back, or cut her from the rest of the show, or yank her off stage, yep it's their show, fair enough. Same with blizzard - they can stop the interview and tell him he doesn't get to say what he wants on their show. I wouldn't exactly be impressed with that, but in general it's their show, their rules.

To take his winnings and ban him from the game is absolute bullshit.

Taking his winnings is outright evil, and I don't think he should've been banned either.

I'd like to play Devil's advocate with your argument, if you'd be interested and willing. Couldn't one say the same thing about Blizzard: "it's their game/tournament, their rules"? They banned him from participating in Hearthstone esports for 1 year. Is the primary distinction that O'Connor doesn't depend on SNL for her livelihood? Would the argument hold if O'Connor were employed by SNL?

I felt the same, but...

When it comes to politics, there are no hard and fast rules. On the one hand, a lot of people look to games for escape from life's problems. It might be reasonable to agree with Blizzard that political speech during a gaming competition isn't appropriate for that reason. On the other hand, entertainment is a form of art, and players are human, through which expression of all forms is interwoven. You can't walk a step in the world of games without stumbling into political expression of some kind.

And sports also fall prey to geopolitics ... in pretty much every match ever held.

Even the "dumbest" action movies made purely for entertainment find a foundation on some good versus evil morality, at least to establish a reason for the ensuing hour and half of thrilling gunfire and explosions. Not many people want to watch their action hero shoot up hundreds of people for no reason at all. We want a "good" hero to shoot up "bad" guys.

So it's all messy. Life is messy. Life is art. Sometimes life/art does something outside of the rules, and it's okay, for no other reason than because it moves people.

So like you I don't feel that Blizzard committed some heinous crime here. But they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That happens; life is messy. What's happening in HK is more important than hard and fast rules.

> I'm not so sure it's okay

I'm not sure its okay for China to be maiming and killing protestors while trying to subjugate a city under tyranny,

The reality is that there are not okay things out there, and people often feel helpless against them, and will do things others will feel is not okay to try to get their message across when they feel the okay way isn't working.

And as a global people we should support those that feel, out of desperation, they need to destroy their careers or risk their own safety to try to help others. Its the inverse side of the coin school shooters and terrorism occur on - both are driven to extreme action, but one is sacrificing oneself to try to help others while the other seeks only to destroy for selfish egotism. Both are indicative of systemic issues that need addressed.

There hasn’t been a single death in Hong Kong.

The same can’t be said about the current protests in Iraq, Sudan, Indonesia, and Kashmir.

>There hasn’t been a single death in Hong Kong.

What about many people who got "disappeared" during the protests? We have no way of knowing how many of them are dead, and I bet at least a few of them might be, with the rest just being tortured and imprisoned per usual.

Such a bad argument: "Well X did it first so we're fine"

I despise the “I’m all for free speech, just don’t do it here” rhetoric. So where else then? On the streets where most people can ignore it?

This is how protesting works. It has to be in places people can see and hear. Creating controversy is even better because it gets the media talking about it.

I’d argue this was 1,000 times more effective in spreading a message than taking to the streets.

In the end Sinead O'Connor was totally right so maybe that should count for something.

I'm not so sure it's okay for him to do it on Blizzard's show/event.

Interviews are not scripted, the interviewer asks questions but the interviewee says whatever they want. It has always been like this.

IIRC because of that incident SNL added a 5 or 10 second delay so they'd have time to cut if something similar happened again.

A comedy show is in business for fifty years, and the only off-color appearance was a musician with a political opinion? As if we ever needed a demonstration of how bland and conventional SNL really is, regardless of the image they would like to convey.

A comedy show is in business for fifty years, and the only off-color appearance was a musician with a political opinion? As if we ever needed a demonstration of how bland and conventional SNL really is, regardless of the image they would like to convey.

SNL has had a great number of off-color appearances. Sinead O'Connor was not the reason they added the delay. SNL was already on tape delay by the time she appeared on the show. She slipped past the network censor because they didn't recognize what she was doing until the images had already been broadcast. (Per Wikipedia, she used a different photo during rehearsals. Her stunt was not edited out of the West coast tape-delayed broadcast but was replaced with rehearsal footage in repeats.)

Richard Pryor was the reason that SNL was on tape delay. In fact, per PBS, he's the reason most live broadcasts are on a several second delay. (Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake are the reason that half-time shows at sports events are now also on tape delay.) https://ca.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/6feba07a-e711-40ab-...

While many skits on SNL can be bland and conventional, a great many of their skits are classics. And especially during political cycles, SNL skits can define a political candidate or campaign. (See, e.g., Dan Quayle and spelling, Al Gore and the lockbox, Sarah Palin and seeing Russia, John McCain as himself on SNL.)

Every Saturday, Lorne Michaels picks an older episode of SNL and it is run alongside the live broadcast. In the event of something catastrophic that would stop the show, like a performer dying, the feed will switch from the live broadcast to the older episode.

Only tangentially related, but morbidly fascinating.

What's the point of showing support in secret? It's no martyrdom if no one hears or cares.

>I'm not so sure it's okay for him to do it on Blizzard's show/event.

>She's was arguably right to critize the Pope but was she right to do it from Saturday Night Live's Live broadcast?

>I also believe I want US businesses to all stick up for freedom of expression and not sell out to China.

Well this is what happens when our culture is so insistent on upholding capitalism as a virtue. When our best platforms for speaking up are businesses, it's only fair for us to use them like we would any other service that we're paying for (whether directly or through our taxes that fund their allowances, or through our suffering of their practices). Why do people only come to the defense of corporations when the "invisible hand of the market" is punching up?

finally someone else who sees it, im fully behind the HK people but using a companies event as a vehicle for a political message is very likely against some part of his contract etc it doesnt matter if we support the message or not thats not the place to do it

Xi Jinping Thinks China Is World's Only Sovereign State


That article is jumping to a heck of a lot of conclusions with no real basis.

Gatestone is a conservative think tank with a history of inaccurate reporting and pushing an anti-Muslim bias, so I wouldn't be surprised.

It's Gordon G. Chang who has been calling for Chinese collapse via all sorts of deceptive narratives in the last 20 years. No one who studies China takes him seriously.

I had to wonder about the fascination with a fairly innocuous decades-old opinion of Pres. Carter's. Talk about beating a dead horse...

Thanks for this -- I was trying to put into words the concept of tianxia and how that affected China's attitudes towards Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The CCP can move quickly and decisively to ban access to the world's 2nd largest market, and it uses that power to chill speech and force governments and companies to take actions it wants that are antithetical to a free society.

Small nations and individual companies cannot stand up to this coercion individually, and free, market economies lack the organization to respond in a cohesive way.

The optimistic belief that economic growth and market integration would liberalize authoritarian or totalitarian countries should by now be wholly debunked.

The CCP is responsible for some of the most horrific atrocities and violations of human rights today, and has largely managed to silence the world from even speaking out against its actions.

Individuals should do everything they can to express their opposition to this state of affairs, but the only viable response is for the governments of free peoples who care for and value these freedoms to jointly act in response.

If we value freedom over money, there must be economic consequences (including economic isolation) for China for its actions, and we should not be reluctant about promoting these freedoms globally, including within China.

The GATT and WTO rules in place today are not sufficient to counter the threat China represents. It's time to rewrite the rules of global trade to prevent the CCP from freely benefiting from trade while simultaneously using it as a hammer to blunt and distort the values that enabled the markets from which it benefits.

Do you think a union would hold any power, almost like an ‘accredited travel agent’? Sign up and show you won’t bend you initial ethics to suit China.

> Do you think a union would hold any power

Power over whom?

China? No.

US Companies? It depends on the context: how damaging would a strike be, and how much of the important people can you get to join?

In the context of pro gaming, I have serious doubts that any union is viable outside games with a franchise model. There are just too many hungry people and too few spots at the top to ever have a meaningful strike.

Even with a franchise, the result of a Union forming may just be the dissolving of the franchise model (or the failure of the game as an esport) rather than the Union achieving political power.

>The optimistic belief that economic growth and market integration would liberalize authoritarian or totalitarian countries should by now be wholly debunked.

Yes, but the belief that the market/capitalism can enforce a set of values, good and bad, lives on.

the only freedom we value more than money is the freedom to make money.

Blizzard, the NBA, all of these organizations know this and will find a way to make it right that doesn't turn off the money.

It'd be really nice if the world pulled out of that market, which would decimate it and teach China that they don't own the world.

That would never happen, anyway. That's the real power of money.

Cory Doctorow and Neal Stephenson both have entire novels featuring in-game markets of MMOs (‘For the Win’ and ‘Reamde’). Hopefully the authors have done more research than I did, but the claim is that MMOs have multibillion-dollar markets of in-game items and currency, with the companies running the games thus controlling the flow of money. And the markets can be used for supranational transfer or laundering. And plenty of people in China, India and elsewhere are farming in-game gold full-time.

Would Blizzard give up such a segment to let some dudes make a few loud comments?

I wonder if this will affect the Starcraft 2 Nation Wars tournament that's currently ongoing. China, Hong Kong, and "Chinese Taipei" (as Blizzard insists the team be called in the tournament) are all participants in the tournament, though the Chinese team just happened to recently eliminate the Hong Kong team, so it would have to be another country's team to pull an "I am Spartacus" in support of the banned player and Hong Kong.

You do know why "Chinese Taipei" is contentious right? The island of Taiwan houses an entity that considers itself the rightful government of China in exile, the Republic of China (ROC).

Mainland China is currently governed by the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Both governments consider themselves "China". They consider the other government as an illegitimate entity occupying territory illegally.

The PRC refuses to deal with any nation that treats the ROC as a nation. That means it is not recognized by the UN, the Olympic committee, etc. If you make any sort of inference that the island of Taiwan is not the territory of and under the control of the PRC, they will flat out drop your ass.

The compromise is "Chinese Taipei". Because "Taiwan" sounds too much like its own nation to the PRC and "Taiwan, China" sounds too much like a subordinate of the PRC to the ROC.

So it's not Blizzard that's insisting the team be called Chinese Taipei, it's the PRC and ROC. Although, they'd much rather the other government not exist.

Maybe the Taiwan team can throw the match by rushing worker units at the Chinese team's tank units

Interesting that the stock price of Activision Blizzard is basically unfazed.

Should go up tbh - they've shown investors that they value shareholder profits/keeping markets open more over all other considerations (fanbase, PR, not being hypocrites, etc).

Investors know long public outrage lasts.

It’ll take a lot more than a bad PR move to affect their stocks. Call of Duty Modern Warfare drops in a day or so. They’ve got plenty of money making assets, and swaths of fans who don’t care about politics.

"but it is incredibly disturbing that American companies would willingly participate in the Chinese government’s propaganda campaign."

Not counting the U.S. media, of course!

And that's why FIFA bans all political displays or comments, and displays of any symbols in general...

I expect Blizzard to follow suit.

But aren't FIFA a bunch of morally bankrupt scam artists?


Isn't that what GP said? Banning speech sure seems "morally bankrupt" to me...

You're right! Now that I think about it, my comment could have been a snarky joke. I didn't think it through. (^_^)

Interesting, the MLS (Major League Soccer), a US professional soccer league, recently faced this issue because a flag associated with an antifa/anti-nazi affiliated group was being displayed by fans at some matches.

At first they banned it, then after some consideration they temporarily unbanned it. (Temporarily, because the league said they will reconsider its flag rules in the off-season.)


There is plenty of this in European football. I remember fan groups flying Che Guevara flags at many games with no problems.

It really becomes a problem when teams and players do it, and even more in international settings. Hence FIGA's rule, which is aimed at keeping the game neutral and an inclusive sport.

It's interesting to see that no where in this thread or in the Vice article posted by OP, is Robert Kotick's name mentioned.

It's not until Kotick, Morhaime (Blizzard co-founder) and Allen Brack (President) start feeling the heat will they reverse course.

Morhaime stepped down as CEO last year, and his advisory role with the company ended back in April.

It's a weird day when I find myself agreeing with Marco Rubio. But it's true, China is effectively attempting a global chill on free speech by gating market access. If we don't stand up now, the effects will be felt long into the future.

Something tells me this will end with Apple in the middle. Can't think of a company more exposed to both China and the US.

Apple’s rainy day fund will come in real handy.

You mean that company that is all about privacy, and refuses to help the US government access phones of domestic terrorism incidents, but moves all china iCloud storage (and keys) to another company based in China?

Apple has tried very hard to appease both sides, and if they suffer for it, it's their own fault.

Where are the usual geniuses that feel obligated to explain to us that this doesn't violate the First Amendment, with the subtle implication that we therefore shouldn't care about it?

I'm not sure the Venn diagram overlaps in the way you think it does. If someone points out to you that someone getting fired from their company for something they said is not a government infringement of free speech, that doesn't necessarily mean they don't think it's an important event. Just that the government didn't and maybe can't have anything to do with it. You have to know what direction you're pointed in to start talking about making a difference.

In this particular situation, I'd say:

- China is wrong to suppress free expression of HKers, and furthermore I believe it's incumbent upon HKers to assert their, as I see it through the lens of my culture, natural born right to that expression.

- Blizzard and the NBA are wrong to discourage the expression of its employees or associates on this particular matter (supporting another culture asserting values like our own), but those harmed do not have the same recourse as a citizen would against their government (with the obvious exceptions of protected classes, which I'm not sure applies here, IANAL). There is only market recourse, aka boycott⁎, or potentially government regulation to protect political speech in the workplace (not sure if that already exists, but it sounds like a dangerous path to me as all kinds of wacky shit could be claimed to be political).

⁎ It strikes me that an embargo or sanction is a kind of political boycott, is that what you'd like to see? Because I'm not outright opposed to a government curtailing business with other governments that refuse to share foundational values. But this is a tricky road too because it basically leads to the kinds of debates like those made to refuse service to PoC or LGBT communities. In the US we have the SCOTUS to help decide those questions, what is the global analogue?

I appreciate the sentiment, but surely there's a less inflammatory way to make this point?

Noticing this a lot more recently with the NBA controversy too.

What is so weird about the NBA controversy is that it stems from a tweet. Twitter is banned in China. So how could it have “hurt the Chinese people’s feelings”?

The Chinese government isn't stupid. It knows people circumvent the GFoC. Damage control as usual. I think the US corollary is "all enemies foreign and domestic".

Those people who can circumvent the GFoC, already knows that their leader is pulling down the whole country.

> Those people who can circumvent the GFoC, already knows that their leader is pulling down the whole country.

CCP is what is industrializing the country. There's not a single person in the West who is not a recent immigrant that lived in a pre-industrial society. In this case Chinese population supports CCP because between supporting some rich special people in HK protesting something and not going back to working the fields with bare hands, HK protesters lose.

West is ought to understand it.

Absolutely. For further reading on this, I recommend “Age of Ambition” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Ambition

I'm not surprised to hear that the Chinese population supports Beijing's opposition to "rich special people" trying to drag China down. It's easy to get people to take your side of made up stories.

> It's easy to get people to take your side of made up stories.

These are not made up stories. Chinese population remembers about having finally electricity everywhere and moving from working farm fields to maybe getting a job in a factory and not using outhouses. There are over a billion of them.

HK population remembers being a special people with British institutions. There are 7.4 million of them.

HK retaining its autonomy—like it's had since 1999 when it returned to Chinese control—would not in any way lead to a return to working farm fields for ordinary mainlanders.

Chinese population - not HK - remembers what it was to live with the outhouses. HK remembers when it (HK) mattered because Chinese population lived with the outhouses.

And how does that in any way imply that Hong Kong retaining its autonomy would force the Chinese people back to the outhouses?

Or is it just a matter of "we suffered, so they have to suffer"?

It is different priorities.

Chinese population (by an overwhelming majority) views HK protesters as rich ungrateful bitches throwing a tempter tantrum.

HK population views mainland Chinese as the unwashed masses that are trying to take away what HK population thinks is rightfully theirs.

The numbers are not on the side of HK. The West is ought to understand that there's HK protesters do not have a winning hand, even with the support from the West.

The west should quit pretending that the majority of Chinese hate the CCP.

It has a lot to do with sending a message in relation to the trade war, with the tweet used as a pretext, IMO.

In the game of pledging allegiance, any resemblance of disloyalty will be crucified.

The NBA at least seems to be walking back their initial condemnation of Morey's comments, China be damned: [0]. We should give them credit for that. Conversely, there's been radio silence from Blizzard so far.

[0]: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/08/sports/adam-silver-nba-ch...

But they ejected fans that had HK posters?

Things are moving pretty fast. Silver came out on the side of free speech, as far as I can see, just a few hours before the fan was ejected for yelling "Free Hong Kong". It's possible that the Philadelphia officials thought they were following the league's lead even if the NBA's official stance had changed.

Someone else should probably try it. Then again, NBA tickets are expensive... maybe something to try in the fourth quarter?

It'll be interesting to see what happens at the next Laker home game. Someone raised like $40k on GoFundMe to hand out pro-HK shirts

Because those fans were causing a disruption, not because of their message.

It’s not weird to agree on individual policies and disagree where you don’t. Thank God for America where this still can happen.

Almost all Americans can agree on freedom of speech.

Really? In theory I think most Americans agree on freedom of speech but in practice it seems like everyone is offended by something these days. The offended (both sides of the aisle) band together and rally against contrarian view points trying to shut them down rather than deliberating or understanding.

Not recently.

That's because most people don't understand that "freedom of speech" and "free speech", while related concepts, are actually different.

Freedom of speech is what the US Constitution guarantees. It says the government cannot limit people's ability to speak their mind, and cannot punish people for speaking their mind. Note that it says nothing about what private entities can do, especially on platforms they own and operate.

"Free speech", as exercised nowadays (mostly) by conservatives who complain about being "silenced", is the (in my opinion ridiculous) idea that one should be able to say anything they want without any consequences whatsoever, and that they are entitled to any platform they choose to spread that message. These are the same people who advocate for a "marketplace of ideas", but get bent out of shape when that marketplace reacts negatively to their opinions.

In my opinion, we need to rid ourselves of the idea that all ideas are equally valid and deserve equal amounts of airtime and consideration. Furthermore, it is okay to completely dismiss certain ideas on their total lack of merit, and furthermore take (private) action to prevent their spread. For example if I post on this site that "all people of <insert ethnicity> need to be exterminated" it would be completely okay for others here to downvote/flag my post (i.e. "censorship") and for HN to ban me (i.e. "de-platforming").

I’m not referring to the concept that there shouldn’t be social repercussions for speech people find distasteful. Of course there should be—shaming and ostracism are powerful tools for enforcing morality, deeper and more fundamental than law. I’m talking about folks using “speech is violence” as a pretext for regulating speech through the government. (This tends to come to a head in the campus context, because when public colleges “deplatform” people, that is government action subject to the first amendment.)

Conservatives tried this too, recruiting the aid of the government to fight against obscenity, Communism, etc. And they lost that battle in the end.

Is this a phenomenon that occurs outside of college campuses?

(I assume you follow FIRE, and know that this problem isn't contained to the "speech is violence" people; there are numerous right-wing attempts at suppression on campus as well.)

So far, I haven’t really seen it outside campuses, but there is a strong push to have private companies deplatform people, and government action is always a tool in the toolchest that people might invoke.

As to your second point, FIRE tends to advocate for free speech on campus generally, including private schools. A lot of the right-wing attempts at suppressing speech happen at places like private religious schools (Duquensque and Georgetown are two top posts in the FIRE website). I tend to stop short of that—I think private schools are free to restrict speech in ways public schools are not. But, as I said in my post, attempts to suppress speech have historically been a right wing phenomenon.

But private companies deplatforming people is exactly the thing you were speaking approvingly of earlier; that's simple freedom of association, articulated through commercial pressure.

I think private companies doing that based on commercial pressure is fine. I don’t trust, however, that it will stay that way. Many of the same people who approve of those efforts also see government intervention is a key tool to achieve social policy. (Which is also something I don’t necessarily oppose.) I just worried about what could happen when those two lines of thinking collide. Deplatforming hate speech based on commercial pressure is a temporary alliance between progressives and liberalitarians. It wouldn’t be the first time, however, where such alliances have broken down as progressives pushed harder.

That makes sense. The last Make No Law episode covers some of this in detail as well.

> we need to rid ourselves of the idea that all ideas are equally valid and deserve equal amounts of airtime and consideration

What would you call this event? The genocide of ideas (by the righteous)?

Who decides which ideas are invalid or lack merit? Is there a social credit system to value / devalue those with ideas and prevent them from transmitting them?

At what point does it extend from the online world into every day life?

What happens to those people when they can't express themselves online or in real life?

Do you see where I'm going with this?

The west employs this tactic too but calls it a sanction or embargo.

China is targeting individual speech, sanctions and embargos target governments and governmental policy. There's a bit of a difference there.

That said, I think that China's efforts - by using companies as their proxies - are being much more effective.

>are being much more effective

Absolutely. They’re beating us at our own game and revealing that American values were never freedom and democracy - those are just ways we think are good to make money. If a better system comes along we’re the first to jump on it.

This is laughably false. The press in the United States is and remains free to publish (virtually) whatever it wants about federal, state, and local government. We're free even to suggest that the electoral college is a terrible way to implement democratic election of representatives, to suggest that the current voting system undermines the legitimacy of the government, to propose and debate alternatives in the open air, to stage protests at the capitol if we care to.

What in the heck are you talking about? No one is jumping ship on these values anytime soon.

The actions of corporations trying to make money in countries that don't share those values are subject to open criticism in the press and wherever one cares to air them. If you want to punish companies that seem to be undermining those values (such as Activision/Blizzard in this case), you remain free to do that.

The backlash against Blizzard is an example of that happening.

So, I don't think it's as big a leap as it may seem. Bear with me a moment:

Modern communication between individuals relies on the internet. Even the government has acknowledged this, insisting that all of their services are available online.

All spaces for communication on the internet (including elements as low as DNS and hosting) rely on private companies.

Private companies can and do take censorious actions based on values that, at best, are layered upon the values of the country that the company operates in. However, at worst, the company's values need not have any relation to those of the countries they operate in.

Thus, the individual's freedom to express their thoughts relies on their thoughts not being censored by private companies. If one of the many companies that you depend upon for communication decides to not let you express that thought, you are unable to express that thought.

Of course, this applies to the internet and not government-owned meat-space, but government-managed meat-space is not where this communication is occurring. Particularly around the incident in Hong Kong.

The "private property" argument was always a bit iffy outside urban areas with ample centrally-located parkland or large public buildings with plenty of sidewalk space. Anywhere else, if you're protesting, you're protesting on somebody's property. Sure you can stand and march in the street, but there are issues with that too.

Ideally 1A protections would be seen as something of a bare minimum, rather than the highest level of protection people could ever dream of enjoying.

> The press in the United States is and remains free to publish (virtually) whatever it wants about federal, state, and local government.

This doesn’t mean much if they don’t use this power and instead publish random bullshit. The western way has never been censorship, it’s been straight up lying.

How does censorship reveal that our values were never freedom and democracy?

If anything, it shows just how well freedom and democracy works in America despite how many conflicting ideologies exist in our nation, compared to any other country.

> revealing that American values were never freedom and democracy

Dunno about you, but I draw the opposite conclusion. The reaction so far has made it clear that a lot of Americans value freedom and democracy, and that they see these corporate actions as unacceptable.

I'm going to give it another week before drawing any conclusions. Chances are people will just move on to the next outrage of the moment.

The media is doing all the reacting. Where are you getting this pulse from?

Can you give an example of free speech being quieted? We push political issues that way, but I’m not aware of censorship being the trigger.

How about the president of the United States demanding that pro sports players be fired for not standing for the anthem?

The president can say anything he wants and nobody will be fired or jailed for not standing. If China bans stuff they can jail people for doing watching stuff.


I too remember when a member of congress and a cabinet member both urged Google to fire someone because their comments had hurt the feelings of the American people.

No, actually I don't think that's a comparable situation.

I was expecting an example of the west punishing another government (or companies in another country) for free speech.

Google wasn’t censored by a government. That was a decision they decided to make (whatever you think of it, I don’t want to start a relitigation of that mess).

James Damore was fired by internal pressure inside Google, not pressure from the US government.

The US Sanctions and Embargos based on lawful use of economical policies as set forth by constitutional powers granted to the Executive Branch.

US Legislative and Executive branches attempts to censor free speech would almost certainly be challenged in court, as the right to free speech, and peacably assemble is one of the founding principles of the US.

Damore was fired for perpetuating gender stereotypes - even he confirmed as much with the press. Ironically enough, you can find that information and the memo through a quick Google search.

No, because: 1) Was not done through pressure from a government 2) Was not done to silence JD 3) Just because you have an opposing view does not mean you are being critical

But, you presented your case respectfully, so I don't think this should be downvoted.

Ironically, my example of what gets censored in the West, including a Wikipedia link, got, well, censored on HN (as in not visible for the majority of readers). Although yes, it doesn't come from the government, it's our society that is becoming less and less tolerant to points of view outside the accepted ideology.

While I agree that Damore's termination was an attempt to punish him for the views he had, I wouldn't put it anywhere in the same class as we are seeing with Chinese censorship. This is an entire country, a state government, deciding what people of other countries should be allowed to say, it is on par with Muslim views on comedic interpretations of Mohammed, and is likely to entice violence in much the same way.

The poster was asked to give an example of free speech being quieted, and gave an example of exactly that.

Damore was not quieted though. He was punished, but not quieted, as a matter of fact the controversy surrounding his termination bolstered his audience even further, and from the get go, he was never restricted on what he could or could not say by anyone.

And blizzard/China didn't "quiet" either, they just "punished".

Because apparently it's not quieting if you've punished someone for saying something.

and now let me go grab my eyeballs off the floor because they just rolled out of my head.

The topic thread was in response to the assertion that the "West" engages in suppressing dissent by censoring political speech in a manner that parallels what is happening with China.

The example given does not come close to that, but is an example of someone being censored.

In the US at least, censorship is typically brought on by pressure from sponsors and advertisers in response to public outcry.

In the US, The Freedom of Speech is heavily protected against government interference.

No, it doesn't. Let's take an actual country rather than something vacuous like "The West". To start a company in the United States (for example), you do not need "an American business partner" controlled by the federal government of the United States. The fate of your company is not tied 100% to the approval or disapproval of that business partner's actions, which in the case of China are vigorously and actively policed. Whatever your political views, and in particular whatever you twit, or facebork, or say on camera, you will not be denied the right to do business in the United States of America. If you could get an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that Western Capitalism is corrupt, Marx was the one true prophet, Emperor Norton was the legitimate sovereign ruler of the United States, and frankly you think the ideal government is a blend of Iran and North Korea (two countries which the United States does embargo), you might have to deal with some weird fallout from public reaction, but you'd still be in business. Furthermore the editor of the Wall Street Journal who published your editorial might suffer some backlash for the utterly weird thing they chose to publish, but they would not be fined or imprisoned or tortured or executed by any state-run apparatus (as they would in China).

Embargoes are the exception, not the rule, and they are not used as a means to enforce political speech. It'll be a cold day in hell before I try to defend the foreign policy tactics of the United States, but to pretend that a business embargo on a select few countries constitutes something on the order of the Chinese stranglehold on business in their country is just false.

> Furthermore the editor of the Wall Street Journal who published your editorial might suffer some backlash for the utterly weird thing they chose to publish, but they would not be fined or imprisoned or tortured or executed by any state-run apparatus (as they would in China).

I recommend reading manufacturing consent. Censorship is entirely unnecessary and you hit on the core social mechanism there.

> suggesting that Western Capitalism is corrupt, Marx was the one true prophet ... but you'd still be in business.

I wonder how that would have gone at the height of McCarthyism.

Make an argument, don't be intellectually lazy. How do you think it would have gone?

Spitballing some historical fiction for the admittedly bizarre editorial? There would have been a public hue and cry. The editor who published the opinion piece would have lost their job, heads would have rolled (figuratively, not literally) in the WSJ editorial board.

The person who wrote the editorial would have had a bad time in the public sphere (they still would).

The author of the editorial would almost certainly not have gone to jail or been arrested, tortured, or executed, nor would they have lost their property or business, nor would their family. Nor would the editor who published the editorial.

If the author had been a government employee, they probably would have lost their job. If they were a high-profile public persona (an actor, for example), they probably would have been blacklisted.

But to be clear, that would be the worst of it - even during an extraordinary period of paranoia and fear.

If you believe otherwise, dig up some historical precedent to support the argument.

For the record: I do not think the United States of America is a just country in many regards, but if you're going to complain about injustice, at least get the facts straight.

(Edit: I'm just so puzzled by the bizarre false equivalence on this issue. It's like suggesting that Norway and the United States have the same track record on public healthcare because the Norwegian state health plan stopped covering acupuncture from 1985-1990 (imaginary example). They don't have the same track record, it's not close, slapping some words together on the internet doesn't make it so.)

As you confirm, the facts are straight: "The editor who published the opinion piece would have lost their job, heads would have rolled, etc"

The public pressure to adopt a particular line was comparable. The consequences for a company or personality not adopting a similar line were, and often still are "tied 100% to the approval or disapproval" which sees someone step down after a foolish quote.

Hundreds were imprisoned during the McCarthy era, so that's not an unreachable stretch either. It's not unthinkable.

To your edit: The equivalence is the equal pressure to conform (to the views of China / the prevailing views of the US), with similar consequences. The main difference is that a US corporation is conforming to an international view - because of that market, along with the speed that pressure can build via the internet.

I wonder how long McCarthyism lasted. I also wonder how long the CCP has been in power for.

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